Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"I Am a Christian." -Perpetua

I bet you're wondering who Perpetua is. I didn't know who she was until recently either, but her story has touched my life. She was a 22-year-old noble woman who was martyred in 203 A.D. for simply saying, "I am a Christian."

She was born into wealth in 187 A.D. in Carthage. It is said that her father loved her so much that he preferred her to her brothers and she was denied nothing. She was taught to speak in Greek and Latin, and also taught to write, even though women at the time were not allowed. In her riches she had the finest clothes, slaves, and entertained. It is not known how she came to know about Jesus Christ or when exactly she asked Him to be her Lord and Savior, but what is known is how committed she was to her faith in Christ.

There was a new edict in the time of her salvation. Any new convert to Christianity would be given over to the wild beasts during the "Games." This edict was meant to put fear in the hearts of anyone who might want to be a Christian. So, if one wanted to become a Christian the pastor would tell them of the law and ask if they were ready for such a death. If they accepted this, the new convert committed to be taught the Scriptures and doctrines for three years. At the end of his/her training they were given a water baptism. Perpetua was in her second year of study when she and her infant son were arrested along with her friends.

During her time in prison she wrote the story of her capture and time in the prison. She wrote of the vision God gave her of the trial she would have to face and how in the end she would see Jesus and have the victory. Everything happened as she saw it in her dreams. She had to go before the Roman Proconsul on the day of her trial and as she walked up the steps to him, her father was whispering in her ear, "Just deny Jesus as Lord and you will go free. Offer a sacrifice to the gods - you do not even need to mean it and you will have your son back in your arms today." When she reached the top step, where the Proconsul was sitting, she was asked to offer just a pinch of incense as a sacrifice to the gods, but she would not. In a loud voice for all the onlookers to hear, she shouted, "I AM A CHRISTIAN!"

She was taken away with the others, imprisoned again, and waited for the day of the Games. A few days later Perpetua and her friends were taken out into the arena. When they came out they all proclaimed, "You have judged us, but there is One who will judge you." For that, they were all flogged. It is written that they praised and thanked God with each lashing to be able to suffer as Jesus did. After the beating, one by one they were attacked by the different beasts: bear, cougar, boar, wild bull. Only one of the five Christians perished. The survivors were then killed by the sword by one of the guards.

Perpetua's written story is the oldest one recorded by a woman. She had asked her jailer to finish recording her final moments, partly so her son would understand why she died for Jesus. The jailer, named Pudens, wrote of her death in the arena. He was so moved by her faith that he later became a Christian too.

Her time in the arena was supposed to strike fear into people to prevent them from becoming Christians. But when Perpetua was thrown by the wild bull over and over again, and trampled, she consistently stood up saying, "I feel no pain." After the witnessing how God protected her in that way, many onlookers were amazed and became new converts to the Christian faith.

I have spent 24 years following Jesus. Perpetua only knew him for 2 years. Could I stand? Will I stand? She left her family, husband and child behind to follow Jesus. When asked if she was afraid, she said, "Yes, for physical pain, but not of death." She stood before the Roman government and declared, "I am a Christian" with boldness and confidence knowing that would seal her fate, and here I am nervous to share the gospel in a country where there is religious freedom! I walk into a store and bump into people all the time that want to talk to me about my many children. I think, "This is not a coincidence, I will share the gospel or ask them if they would like me to pray for them." But my heart begins to race, and I freeze. Sometimes the words come out, and sadly sometimes they do not.

Father in Heaven, I pray for boldness. I pray for a deeper faith. I pray for conviction. I pray that I will not be ashamed of the gospel. Forgive me. Help me to love as you love. Help me to weep over the lost as you weep. Help me to be a witness to all people everywhere I go. Help me to proclaim: "I love Jesus! I am a Christian!" without fear. May I shout the scripture: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16) Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment